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This second-place knowledge is a knowledge of moral facts, while the first-place knowledge is a knowledge of my personal moral obligation, a knowledge of the moral law itself and its binding authority over my life. That knowledge forms the basis for the argument from conscience. If anyone claims he simply does not have that knowledge, if anyone says he simply doesn't see it, then the argument will not work for him.

The question remains, however, whether he honestly doesn't see it and really has no conscience or a radically defective conscience or whether he is repressing the knowledge he really has. Divine revelation tells us that he is repressing the knowledge Rom b; In that case, what is needed before the rational, philosophical argument is some honest introspection to see the data. The data, conscience, is like a bag of gold buried in my backyard.

If someone tells me it is there and that this proves some rich man buried it, I must first dig and find the treasure before I can infer anything more about the cause of the treasure's existence. Before conscience can prove God to anyone, that person must admit the presence of the treasure of conscience in the backyard of his soul. Nearly everyone will admit the premise, though. They will often explain it differently, interpret it differently, insist it has nothing to do with God.

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But that is exactly what the argument tries to show: that once you admit the premise of the authority of conscience, you must admit the conclusion of God. How does that work? Nearly everyone will admit not only the existence of conscience but also its authority. In this age of rebellion against and doubt about nearly every authority, in this age in which the very word authority has changed from a word of respect to a word of scorn, one authority remains: an individual's conscience.

Almost no one will say that one ought to sin against one's conscience, disobey one's conscience. Disobey the church, the state, parents, authority figures, but do not disobey your conscience. Thus people usually admit, though not usually in these words, the absolute moral authority and binding obligation of conscience. Such people are usually surprised and pleased to find out that Saint Thomas Aquinas, of all people, agrees with them to such an extent that he says if a Catholic comes to believe the Church is in error in some essential, officially defined doctrine, it is a mortal sin against conscience, a sin of hypocrisy, for him to remain in the Church and call himself a Catholic, but only a venial sin against knowledge for him to leave the Church in honest but partly culpable error.

So one of the two premises of the argument is established: conscience has an absolute authority over me. The second premise is that the only possible source of absolute authority is an absolutely perfect will, a divine being. The conclusion follows that such a being exists. How would someone disagree with the second premise? By finding an alternative basis for conscience besides God. There are four such possibilities:. The first possibility means that the basis of conscience is a law without a lawgiver.

We are obligated absolutely to an abstract ideal, a pattern of behavior. The question then comes up, where does this pattern exist? If it does not exist anywhere, how can a real person be under the authority of something unreal? How can more be subject to "less"? If, however, this pattern or idea exists in the minds of people, then what authority do they have to impose this idea of theirs on me?

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If the idea is only an idea, it has no personal will behind it; if it is only someone's idea, it has only that someone behind it. In neither case do we have a sufficient basis for absolute, infallible, no-exceptions authority. But we already admitted that conscience has that authority, that no one should ever disobey his conscience. The second possibility means that we trace conscience to a biological instinct. We unconsciously know this, says the believer in this second possibility, just as animals unconsciously know that unless they behave in certain ways the species will not survive.

That's why animal mothers sacrifice for their children, and that's a sufficient explanation for human altruism too. It's the herd instinct. The problem with that explanation is that it, like the first, does not account for the absoluteness of conscience's authority. But we do not believe we ought ever to disobey our conscience. You should usually obey instincts like mother love, but not if it means keeping your son back from risking his life to save his country in a just and necessary defensive war, or if it means injustice and lack of charity to other mothers' sons.

There is no instinct that should always be obeyed. The instincts are like the keys on a piano the illustration comes from C. Lewis ; the moral law is like sheet music. Different notes are right at different times. Furthermore, instinct fails to account not only for what we ought to do but also for what we do do.

We don't always follow instinct. Sometimes we follow the weaker instinct, as when we go to the aid of a victim even though we fear for our own safety.

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The herd instinct here is weaker than the instinct for self-preservation, but our conscience, like sheet music, tells us to play the weak note here rather than the strong one. Honest introspection will reveal to anyone that conscience is not an instinct. When the alarm wakes you up early and you realize that you promised to help your friend this morning, your instincts pull you back to bed, but something quite different from your instincts tells you you should get out.

Even if you feel two instincts pulling you e. Quite simply, conscience tells you that you ought to do or not do something, while instincts simply drive you to do or not do something. Instincts make something attractive or repulsive to your appetites, but conscience makes something obligatory to your choice, no matter how your appetites feel about it. When the team is reassembled, they compare their observations of the Lithians. Soon they will have to officially pronounce their verdict. Michelis is open-minded and sympathetic to the Lithians.

He has learned their language and some of their customs.


Agronski is more insular in his outlook, but he sees no reason to consider the planet dangerous. When Cleaver revives, he reveals that he wants the place exploited, regardless of the Lithians' wishes. He has found enough pegmatite a source of lithium , which is rare on Earth that a factory could be set up to supply Earth with lithium deuteride for nuclear weapons. Michelis is for open trade.

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Agronski is indifferent. Ruiz-Sanchez makes a major declaration: he wants maximum quarantine. The information Chtexa revealed to him, added to what he already knew, convinces him that Lithia is nothing less than the work of Satan , a place deliberately constructed to show peace, logic, and understanding in the complete absence of God. Point for point, Ruiz-Sanchez lists the facts about Lithia that directly attack Catholic teaching.

Michelis is mystified, but does point out that all the Lithian science he has learned, while perfectly logical, rests on highly questionable assumptions.

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It is as if it just came from nowhere. The team can come to no agreement. Ruiz-Sanchez concludes that Cleaver's intentions will probably prevail and Lithian society will be exterminated. Despite his conclusions about the planet, he has a deep affection for the Lithians. As the humans board their ship to leave, Chtexa gives Ruiz-Sanchez a gift—a sealed jar containing an egg. It is a son of Chtexa, to be raised on Earth and learn the ways of humans.

Ruiz-Sanchez sees that it is two questions, despite the omission of a comma between the two, so that the answer can be "Yes and No".

The egg hatches and grows into the individual Egtverchi. Like all Lithians, he inherits knowledge from his father through his DNA. Earth society is based on the nuclear shelters of the 20th century, with most people living underground. Egtverchi is the proverbial firecracker in an anthill; he upends society and precipitates violence.

1. Conscience as pluralistic, neutral and subjective

Ruiz-Sanchez has to go to Rome to face judgment. His conviction about Lithia is viewed as heresy , since he believes Satan has the power to create a planet. This is close to Manichaeism.